Via Israel Highway:
Many Americans know that Israel receives millions of dollars in aid each year from the United States government and from private Jewish organizations. Do they know, however, that Israel military personnel and rescue specialists were on the scene at the U.S. Embassy in Kenya after it was attacked by terrorists and rescued numerous people from the rubble? Do they know that Israel sent tons of medical supplies, food, clothing and medical teams to victims of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean and to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina? While Israel does receive financial support from outside sources, the country is also a proud donor of money, expertise and equipment around the world.
Often lost in the headlines of terror, war, and politics are the small – and sometimes not so small – acts of chesed and tikkun olam that the Israeli government and military, as well as numerous private and non-profit organizations, contribute throughout the world. These projects include on-going activities and educational programs as well as one-time emergency efforts that bring Israeli expertise in emergency management, agriculture, technology, irrigation and healthcare to developing countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and other needy areas. These efforts stem from the country’s natural inclination to care for others, especially in times of need. While there are numerous organizations involved in these diverse efforts, let’s briefly introduce four of the more well-known (at least inside Israel):
Founded in 1958, MASHAV is Israel’s Center for International Cooperation. The founding mission has remained unchanged in the almost 50 years since MASHAV was founded-to share the know-how and technologies that helped develop Israel’s society and economy with the developing world. MASHAV was established as a division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The program started with limited resources, reflecting the reality of Israel in the early years of the State; it has grown into a large, diverse and thriving program that has trained approximately 200,000 course participants from 140 countries. MASHAV programs focus on using Israeli strengths and ingenuity to help developing nations cope with problems including poverty alleviation, provision of food security, empowerment of women, provision of basic healthcare and education.
The IDF serves at the forefront for protecting Israel’s borders, for developing new military technologies, and leading the fight against terror. However, when disaster strikes in other parts of the world, the IDF’s Home Front Command Rescue Unit, an elite reserve unit with special training in handling large-scale disasters, leaps into action. In recent years, the unit has been deployed all over the world. It was in Kenya after the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings; in Turkey after the 1999 earthquake; in the wake of the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004; and, at the request of the Vice President of Kenya, it responded to a building collapse in Nairobi in January 2006. In addition to human resources which include medical professionals, first responders, search and rescue specialists and engineers, the IDF has regularly sent emergency medical equipment, food, medicine, tents and other equipment in times of need around the world.
IsraAID is a coordinating body of Israeli and Jewish NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and other interested parties based in Israel that are active in development and relief work. Consisting of more than 35 Israeli and Jewish organizations, IsraAID was founded in 2001. Members include humanitarian aid organizations, student and youth movements, industry, solidarity movements, religious organizations, friendship societies and more. Members include: the Joint Distribution Committee Israel (JDC), ‘Pirchey Refua’ (Youth Medical Cadets), The Humanitarian Fund of the Kibbutz Movement, The Student Council of Israel, Aid Without Borders, Israeli Friends of Tibet, B’nai B’rith World Center, Save a Child’s Heart, American Jewish Committee (AJC), United Jewish Communities(UJC) and others. IsraAID projects include educational programs on development, education, water resources, AIDS awareness, children’s issues and more.
Latet – Israeli Humanitarian Aid was established in 1996. The goal of Latet (“to give” in Hebrew) is to provide assistance to needy populations in Israel and throughout the world, and to mobilize the civilian society in Israel toward involvement in humanitarian efforts around the world. Latet aims to generate social awareness and to impart values of mutual responsibility and giving. Latet is a non-profit organization that operates completely on donations and through the dedicated efforts of over 3,000 volunteers nationwide, with a focus on feeding the needy, developing a sense of civic responsibility and volunteerism, healthcare and emergency response.
So much good work is done around the world in the name of Israel. Unfortunately, these efforts are often under-reported or not reported at all by leading news agencies. However, Israel’s efforts create a strong foundation for Israeli diplomacy in the non-Western world, and provide positive, non-political talking points for Israeli activists in Europe and North America.
* Look over the programs to see if you are interested in volunteering.
* Plan a fund-raising event at your school, youth group or synagogue to support one of the humanitarian activities.